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April 29, 2004

Oil and Vinegar in Our National Psyche

David 'Kip' Koontz

Last week the Vatican announced that pro-choice politicians are "not fit" to take communion.

You have to wonder whether they issued the same statement about the priests and bishops involved in decades of child molestation and cover-ups. If they did, it didn't seem to get as much airplay.

More specifically, the "not fit" directive is aimed at Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, who is pro-choice.

The abortion issue has been around for quite some time, so it seems more than curious why, simply because there is a pro-choice Democrat who is Catholic who is running seriously for president, that this now becomes a cause celeb.

Is the Vatican attempting to influence the election or is the press simply lacking in its responsibility to look at this issue in more detail?


One can draw this conclusion this because there is no effort being made to publicly point the finger of "unfitness" at those Republican Catholics who are pro-choice.

Among them are Secretary of Homeland Defense Tom Ridge, New York Governor George Pataki, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is often mentioned as a contender for higher office, and famed California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Why is the question not being asked about their being fit to take communion? Or, even better, why is the question only being asked about Senator Kerry, unless there is an attempt to discourage voters from selecting him due to his "unfitness?"

Also, as the Pope and the Vatican has taken strong positions against the death penalty, why is no statement coming from the Vatican stating that pro-death penalty Catholic officials are unfit to take communion?

The Pope and the Vatican has taken a strong position against the intervention into Iraq, yet, why is there no decree stating that pro-intervention Catholics are unfit for communion?

Is their thinking that killing a fetus is a worse sin than killing a living person?

Why the seeming inconsistency in church policy unless there is an attempt to influence the election?

And, yes, it seems that the press is greatly asleep, as little is being reported to point this out. Kind of takes the punch out of the oft used ruse of the "liberal media."

In 1960, then candidate for President John F. Kennedy - a Roman Catholic - found himself being questioned about whether the Pope and the Vatican was going to control the White House if he became president.

He was able to counter that concern by emphasizing that we, as Americans, enjoy a separation of church and state, so he could govern and hold his religious beliefs.

Over the years, however, evangelical Christians have strong-armed themselves onto the political scene, with church leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson and others sitting at the right hand of presidents since Ronald Reagan. The "church," albeit not Catholic, has had quite a bit of influence over the policies emanating from the White House.

Why did some fear a Catholic president, but not evangelical protestant ones?

Be that as it may, those many years ago it was the Republicans who used the "Vatican factor" as a tool in which to frighten potential voters away from Candidate Kennedy.

Now, the Republicans are seemingly trying to squeeze yet another religious leader into their confessional in order to round out some sort of religious trifecta, irregardless of what now seems to be a complete disregard for the concept of "separation of church and state" - in any of its interpretations.

And it is being done in spite of the contradictions in the application of church policy as well.

Curious how the worm turns, isn't it?

Just where will it all end, "Onward Christian Soldiers" as our national anthem?

American political leaders should be allowed to carry out the laws of the land, regardless of their religious affiliations without the heads of churches attempting to influence our elections.

But it seems that concept has somehow gotten lost on our trek to become the United Theocratic States of America.

One has to wonder if maybe these zealots would be happy if we just established a "national church" that would direct Americans how to live our daily lives - a concept the Pilgrims fled from years ago. It is fair to say we appear to be heading back in that direction.

And why is the Vatican so opposed to the idea of altar girls?

Why is it that women, whose bodies are regulated by the Vatican, can play only a limited role in the Roman Catholic Church?

It is especially curious on the issue of abortion rights that a bunch of men who can not marry and are not supposed to have sex, tell women that they should not use contraception and should not have abortions if they believe they need to do so.

Not to say that Catholic men (or that all Catholic men) are the only one's imposing their will on women; many evangelical Protestant men do so as well.

Kind of like going back in time to when women were considered property.

Maybe the entire issue of abortion would go away if men were required to, say, undergo a vasectomy at a certain age as a right of passage into manhood - thus putting the responsibility of preventing "unwanted" pregnancy on men.

The vasectomy would be reversible, of course, when the man is deemed "mature enough" to have a baby (by the church-run Council of Worthiness no doubt) - not that is much of a consideration now.

That isn't going to happen, but you might certainly see the argument over this issue change in nature if men were held more accountable for a woman's pregnancy.

Maybe we should just wise up and understand contraception, along with appropriate education, would, in some people's view, cut down on the need for abortion all together. But, hey, it just seems easier to deny access to both, doesn't it?

Using and accepting contraception would just make everyone more promiscuous, right?

An argument as legitimate as the bond of matrimony makes everyone monogamous.

The circle of inconsistencies in these ideas is a confusingly outstanding, mystifying mess.

Be that as it may, people's religious beliefs should, of course, be a part of their individual compass on which they base their life and make their decisions.

This can not exclude politicians.

But we go too far when we allow our religious leaders - of any ideology - to drive the policy on which our government is based.

No head of church, of any sort, should have the right to tell us that if we do not strictly follow our religious codes when making law and in turn forsaking the fact we are a nation based on law and not religion, we are no better than some of the nation's that some have described as members the "Axis of Evil."

(J. D. Hulse contributed to this column)

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